The Right to Education? (Pt. 6)

Over the last 5 posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) I have compared and contrasted Wayne Grudem’s and Michael Walzer’s position on the injustices in our education system and their responses to the problem. Today, I am going to offer my own opinion regarding this issue.

My Position

Walzer begins his book by saying that “human society is a distributive community.”[1] As a community we decide how we distribute goods like food, shelter, knowledge, capital, and education. Of course how goods are distributed will vary from community to community. Some communities will distribute goods more justly than others. The United States is a community composed of people from different parts of the world and of different cultures. It would be fair to say that the United States is a community that is composed of many small communities and social structures. The family might be considered a small community representing one unit of society to the larger community. The government might be considered one part of the community created to serve the smaller units of community as well as the aggregate of these smaller communities. The government however is not a standalone entity, it is an entity which exists as part of the larger community embedded within a particular culture. In other words, in the United States the government is not separate from the people it is part of the people. Because the government is part of the society, it plays a role in deciding how the society as a whole will distribute its goods. In this series of blogs we focused on education. Walzer argues that education is a good which is distributed by the community. I believe that Walzer is right in saying that the society as a whole has the responsibility of distributing goods in such a way as to eliminate the practice of domination.

In regards to the good we call education, I personally believe that society as a whole should do its best to provide an education to all who are willing so that none within that society experience domination. Glen Stassen points out that justice has four dimensions: 1-deliverance of the poor from injustice, 2-lifting the foot of domineering power off the neck of the dominated and oppressed, 3-stopping violence and establishing peace, and 4-restoring the outcasts into the community.[2] If society as a whole were to take these four points seriously they would realize that providing an education to all people is a matter of justice. This means that if our society is going to take the biblical mandate to enact justice seriously, all segments of society must do their part to educate children. (Whether or not “society” should be working to ensure “biblical justice” is an entirely different question, and its too big to address in this particular post.)

How we understand the authorities in our community will influence how the proper education of all children will occur. We must remember that God has placed the government as an authority over our society. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Rom. 13:1) These authorities are God’s servant for our good. But the government is not the only authority God has placed in the world for the good of society. God has created families so that they may instruct, discipline, teach, and raise children in the ways of the Lord (Deut. 6:4-7). If we take seriously the government’s God given mandate to serve its people and the family’s mandate to raise children in the ways of God, and believe that a society is mandated by God to enact justice then education is the responsibility of both government and family. In other words, all of society is responsible for being interested in the education of its children.

As a church, how are we to create a society that cares for the education of all children, especially the children of poor, oppressed, and marginalized people? I believe that the first step is to teach our churches about justice. Justice is a deep concern to God. Jeremiah 22:3 says “Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.” As evangelicals, the justice element has really been ignored in our preaching. And I must admit, I gravitate towards ignoring it in my own preaching as well. Once our churches have understood God’s concern for the poor and oppressed we will desire to find ways to bring about justice. This might involve creating programs which help underprivileged children succeed in their education. Perhaps it will involve political advocacy for educational reform. It will certainly involve prayer for our government so that they would enact justice.

If education reform is to happen and our society will distribute education in a just way that pleases God then churches, families, governments, and non-governmental organizations must come together to work in ways that will bring about deliverance for the oppressed.

[1] Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, 3.

[2] Stassen and Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, 249.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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